Calls to ban Islamic headdress in shops and banks have served to highlight one thing – many people don’t know their burqa from their hijab.
4BC drive-time announcer Michael Smith, who launched the controversy with his on-air comments on Wednesday, has interchanged terms such as hijab and burqa, despite the fact they describe two very different types of Islamic dress.
PHOTOS: Burqa, hajib or naqib?
“It’s pretty full on if you haven’t seen the full-on burqa, the full-on hijab before…” Mr Smith said in a press conference yesterday.
Dr Halim Rane, from Griffith University’s Islamic Research Unit, said Mr Smith’s confusion had been repeated across various media over the past two days.
“The burqa is more of a full length covering which uses some sort of netting to cover the whole face including the eyes, however what is probably being discussed in media – but they are using the wrong term – is the niqab and that is the face veil,” Dr Rane said.
“The main dress we see is the hijab which is essentially a veil. This is common for Muslim women all over the world but is also common to Christian and Jewish women.
“Anyone who has been into a church and had a look at a statue or a picture of Mary will see she is wearing a veil – this is not different from the hijab, to use the Arabic terminology.”
Within followers of Islam, different types of dress are culturally proscribed along national or ethnic lines.
“Islam doesn’t proscribe any particular dress for men and women but what it does ask is that both men and women dress modestly, that’s basically the main requirement as far as the Koran is concerned,” Dr Rane said.
“The veil was proscribed for women as a way to protect themselves from the lewd stares of men and that came within a particular social and cultural context.
“There are variations like different colours and in countries like Iran you see more black but in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia you get a range of different colours and patterns. There is nothing within the religion that says there should be one colour, these are just cultural variations.”
Dr Rane said use of the face veil could actually be traced to the days before Islam.
“Variations have largely been influenced by the pre-existing cultures which existed before Islam. Take the face veil, for instance, this was something that was associated with Persian and Byzantine societies,” he said.
Posted by: euzoia | January 16, 2009
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